Finding themes in literature
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Finding Themes in Literature. A message from the author…. The Reader’s Job. Part of your job as a reader is to understand what the author is trying to say. Writers seldom come out and tell you, “Hey, Reader! THIS is what I want you to GET from my writing.”

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Finding Themes in Literature

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Finding themes in literature

Finding Themes in Literature

A message from the author…


The reader s job

The Reader’s Job

  • Part of your job as a reader is to understand what the author is trying to say.

  • Writers seldom come out and tell you, “Hey, Reader! THIS is what I want you to GET from my writing.”

  • You, as the reader, must make inferences and draw conclusions about what the author is trying to express.


Hey what s the big idea

HEY! What’s the BIG IDEA?!!

  • Of a literary work, that is!

  • Themes are usually about BIG IDEAS. For example:

    • Freedom

    • Trust

    • Friendship

    • Good vs. Evil

    • And much, much more.


So what is theme

So, what is theme?

  • Theme is the message from the author.

  • Themes can be found everywhere:

    • Literature

    • Art

    • Movies

  • The theme of a fable is its moral.

  • The theme of a parable is its teaching.

  • The theme of a piece of literature is its view about life and how people behave.


This is theme

THIS is THEME…

  • Theme is the underlying meaning of the story.

  • It is a universal Truth.

  • It is a significant statement the story is making about society, human nature or the human condition.


Get to the point

Get to the POINT!

  • Theme is NOT the TOPIC.

  • Theme IS the POINT being made about the TOPIC.

  • Theme is a statement about LIFE.

  • A GOOD theme teaches a VALUABLE lesson about life.


Theme and idea

Theme and Idea

  • The theme of a literary work is its underlying central idea or the generalization it communicates about life.


Theme the meaning of life

Theme…the meaning of life?

  • The theme expresses the author’s opinion or raises a question about human nature of the meaning of human experience.


Words of the wise

Words of the Wise

  • At times the author’s theme may not confirm or agree with your own beliefs.

  • Even then, if skillfully written, the work will still have a theme that illuminates some aspects of true human experience.


Finding common ground

Finding…Common Ground

  • The author’s task is to communicate on a common ground with the reader.

  • Although the particulars of your experience may be different from the details of the story, the general underlying truths behind the story may be just the connection that both you and the writer are seeking.


You and theme

You and Theme

  • An understanding of theme is dependent upon one’s previous experience of life and literature.

  • At the same time, theme in literature can enlarge one’s understanding of life.


Be aware

Be aware:

  • The theme never completely explains the story.

  • It is only one of the elements that are needed to gain full understanding of the story.

  • Literary texts can have more than one theme.


Finding the theme

Finding the Theme

  • What is the topic or “BIG IDEA” of the work?

  • What do the characters say or do that relates to the topic?

  • What do these things tell you that are important to learn about life?

  • The topic is…

  • The BIG IDEA is…

  • The characters say…

  • The characters do…

  • The text tells me…

  • It is important to…


Theme topics

Theme topics


Common literary topics not themes

Common LITERARY TOPICS – Not THEMES!

  • Friendship

  • Survival

  • Family

  • Love & Hate

  • Life & Death

  • War & Peace

  • Motherhood & Fatherhood

  • Poverty & Wealth

  • Freedom

  • Patriotism

  • Education

  • Homelessness

  • Prejudice

  • Honesty

  • Land

  • Laws & Justice


Characteristically speaking

Characteristically Speaking

  • Questions to ask yourself when thinking about theme and characters:

    • How does the character change?

    • What made him/her change?

    • What lessons did the character learn?

    • What are the characters’ feelings about what happens in the story?

    • What conflicts do the characters engage in and what happens as a result?


Common literary themes

(Themes repeated in many works)

Common Literary Themes

Freedom

Poverty

Education

Life

Law

Bravery


1 the quest for immortality

1. The quest for immortality

  • “Stranger, stop and cast an eye.

    As you are now, so once was I.

    As I am now, so you shall be,

    Prepare for death and follow me.”

    (Epitaph in a European monastery)


2 the individual s relationship and obligation to society

2. The individual’s relationship and obligation to society.

  • Sometimes called “man vs. society”


3 the individual s inward journey to understand him or herself identity

3. The individual’s inward journey to understand him or herself/identity.


4 the individual s relationship and obligation to the natural world

4. The individual’s relationship and obligation to the natural world.

  • Sometimes called “man vs. nature”


5 how justice and injustice are decided

5. How justice and injustice are decided.


6 the individual as hero what it means to be a hero or anti hero

6. The individual as hero: what it means to be a hero or anti-hero.


7 what it means to be a survivor

7. What it means to be a “survivor.”


8 the individual s experience of alienation or despair

8. The individual’s experience of alienation or despair


9 the artist s relationship and obligation to society

9. The artist’s relationship and obligation to society.


10 what tomorrow s world holds for us aka the future

10. What tomorrow’s world holds for us…aKa “The Future”


11 love

11. LOVE:

  • Marriage

  • Romance

  • Platonic or companionate love

  • Altruistic love

  • Love of Country

  • Admiration

  • Possessiveness

  • Intense dependency

  • Logical-sensible love

  • Self-centered love

  • Game-Playing

  • Unrequited love

  • Godly love

  • Familial love

  • Infatuation

  • Physical attraction

  • Jealousy


12 role of institutions

12. Role of Institutions

  • Sometimes called “man vs. the institution”


Themes

Themes?

What is the theme in the Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast?”

What is the theme in the Disney classic, “Pinocchio?”


Themes1

Themes?

What is the theme in Disney’s Monsters, Inc.?

What is the theme in the classic movie, “The Wizard of Oz?”


Theme topic match up

Theme & Topic Match Up

CourageRevengeJealousyDreams

  • Be careful how you treat other people; they may treat you the same.

  • Face your fears and you can defeat them.

  • Do not wish for what others possess. Be happy with what you have.

  • Work for what you want in life and you can achieve any goal.

  • _______

  • _______

  • _______

  • _______

Revenge

Courage

Jealousy

Dreams


How to write a thematic statement

How to write a thematic statement


Creating general thematic statements

Creating general thematic statements

  • Example: Courage

  • Courageallows people to attempt difficult tasks in their liveseven when the possibility of failure is very high.

(Thematic idea)

(assertion about the thematic idea)

(qualifying clause: when, because, unless, even, so that, whether, if, etc.)


You write one

You write one!

  • ______________ ________________________

    ________________________________________

(Thematic idea)

(assertion about the thematic idea)

(qualifying clause: when, because, unless, even so that, whether, if, etc.)


Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work

Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work.

  • Think of a novel, play or short story you know well. Think of the thematic ideas that are present in that piece of literature. Choose a thematic idea word (you may use the resource list) and complete the fill-in-the-blank statement. The assertion in this statement will be directly related to the ideas presented in the work of literature.


Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work1

Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work.

  • Example:

  • Work: Cold Sassy Tree

  • Thematic idea: death

  • In Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns presents the idea that death is not only an ending but also a chance for a new beginning when those who are still alive take the opportunity to learn from it.


Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work2

Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work.

  • Work: __________________

  • Thematic idea: _________________

  • Model: In____________, ___________ presents the idea that ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Name of literary work)

(Name of author)

(assertion about what the literature teaches the reader about the thematic idea)

(qualifying clause: when, because, unless, even so that, whether, if, etc.)


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